It was Christmas morning and my daughter, Anna Beth, handed me a small jewelry box wrapped in holiday paper. Immediately I knew it would be a charm for my bracelet. When I opened the present, it took a moment to register what the charm represented. Then, I realized it looked like a postcard and the tears began to form. This new tradition between us started with an innocent comment by her: “Mom, I love it when I go to the mailbox and there’s a letter waiting for me.” An idea immediately formed in my mind. Before the week was over I had gone to the store, stocked up on cards, wrote the first one and mailed it. I could not wait to hear her response after going to the mailbox. In the letter I wrote about how much she means to me and my gratefulness for our relationship. It also delighted me that this simple act would cause her to feel loved and treasured while bringing a smile to her face. The day her card arrived she called me to thank me for my thoughtfulness and let me know how much that simple act blessed her. Mission accomplished! I could not wait to begin the process again in a few weeks!
Much to my surprise, I walked to my mailbox one day and discovered a card from Anna Beth. In it she told me that she wanted both of us to regularly mail cards to one another. I love that we fill up all the blank space in the cards with our thoughts about the world, our lives, our love for each other and the latest challenges we are facing.
When I find a card has been delivered by my postman, I wait until bedtime to savor its contents. I will think about what it might say and anticipate how loved I will feel as I read it. When the end of the day arrives, I snuggle in between the covers, open the card and cherish the words written on my behalf.
One day a card arrived and when I began to read it, I found it was from Chris, my son-in-love (aka son-in-law), expressing his gratefulness to me for recently calling him to pray about his upcoming exams. I was delighted and shocked. Immediately I phoned him and told him how much it meant to me to receive this gift of loving words.
Through this letter writing journey, I am fulfilling something that I talk about with my clients on a regular basis. It is about the art of listening to the people around us who are asking for love and care; a topic that arises frequently in counseling. It is also about the notion of being “present in the moment”. The new tradition started in my family because I was fully listening to Anna Beth. I am sure there have been numerous times I did not hear what someone was saying because I was only half-heartedly listening. That day Anna Beth uttered those words, I was handed a wonderful opportunity and the result of my hearing her, has blessed me and begun a warm tradition in our family that we will treasure for years to come.
One other unexpected outcome of our new tradition, is a blessing for my mom. This Christmas we handed her a beautiful box filled with 12 letters. They are written by family members and friends who talk about their relationship with her as well as fun and touching memories they have. I brought the letters home and will mail one to her at the beginning of each month. It will be a yearlong reminder of the positive impact she has on her family and how much we cherish having her as a mom, grandmother, mother in law, aunt, great grandmother, and friend.
Who could have predicted that a simple statement said months ago could have such a lifelong effect on our family?
I love my postcard charm. When I wear my bracelet it is a constant reminder of the gift of family and the honor of finding ways to listen and to love well. I am so grateful that I heard my daughter when she expressed her feelings about receiving a letter in the mail. Being present with her has strengthened our relationship and I am forever grateful.